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Ayra Starr 

Ayra Starr: The Year I Turned 21 review – magnetic Afrobeats

The Beninese-Nigerian singer-songwriter puts her big voice to work on a set of songs that are over all too soon

Ayra Starr 

Beninese-Nigerian singer-songwriter Ayra Starr has fast become one of the biggest musicians to come out of west Africa. Her debut, 19 and Dangerouswas gutsy, but there’s a noticeable jump in maturity in her latest, The Year I Turned 21Hereshe puts that big voice to work and experiments with more sounds and cadences.

Alt-R&B pop track Birds Sing of Money is a statement opener: “I don’t watch my tone ’cause I like how it sounds bitch,” she spits. She bids farewell to an ex on the jazzy Goodbye (Warm Up), featuring Asake, which has summer running through its bloodstream. Bad Vibes is the kind of airy carefree Afrobeats song Starr is known for, but there are also moments of introspection. On 21 – a dream pop, Kali Uchis-esque ballad – Starr sings desperately: “Where did all the years go?” The Kids Are Alright honours her late father, and features tender voice notes from her family, backdropped by impassioned piano and strings.

Many of the songs are over too quickly; you’re pulled out of a sultry soundscape before you can fully immerse yourself. Still, the magnetism of Starr’s flow and fire is undeniable.



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